As you walk along the Christiansted boardwalk you can’t help but notice schools of huge, silvery tarpon that linger in the water beside you. Sometimes, a dorsal fin will even slice through the surface of the water giving you an eerie ‘Jaws’ flashback. Alas, don’t be alarmed…these large-eyed, broad-mouthed fish are not dangerous to humans. Tarpon mostly feed on mid-water prey such as mullets, pinfish, needlefish, crabs and food scraps. Known as bottom feeders, tarpon congregate around docks, boardwalks, and charter boats hoping some fish carcasses, or any other scraps, are thrown their way.
The tarpon have become an attraction unto themselves here in Christiansted as waterfront restaurants and their patrons feed the insatiable fish things like chicken wings, french fries, fish skin, tortillas, or other food remnants that would otherwise go to waste. Now that the tarpon know where to hang out to get fed, adults and children alike can delight in watching the tarpon jump out of the water to catch food thrown to them from the boardwalk. So, when you have finished with your chicken wings, throw the tarpon a bone (or two)…they will appreciate the snack while you and your family enjoy the free show!
In addition to seeing these fish from the boardwalk, you can see them up close and personal while diving or snorkeling. If you want to see these shiny fish in their natural habitat, consider taking a charter boat where the local captains know the places to take you so you can snorkel or dive right alongside them. For the really brave, tarpon are amazing to watch on a night dive. They silently swim beside you and use the beam of light from your dive light to hunt for small fish. When the tarpon see a fish they want in your beam, they dart out from right beside you and swallow it up! It is both startling and fun to see the tarpon in action! Tarpon are also great fighting fish, so if you want to try and land one take a sport fishing charter inshore and try your luck.
– Jennie Ogden, Editor
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